Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Commend The New York Yankees

I’m a relieved fan knowing the Yankees retained their young crop of minor league prospects. Only time will sort out how Jesus Montero, Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman and Ivan Nova will perform. But, I’m relishing the thought that two or three of these kids will become Long-term Yankees. What’s really a more enticing notion is that these kids could be the foundation of future Yankees stars and we could be looking at the new core. Scranton Wilkes-Barre now has four of the Yankees' to five minor league prospects.

Manny Banuelos is certainly making good strides and may get a call-up in September. Although, the Yankees are reluctant to impede his development, it would not be out of the question that this kid could end up helping the Yankees down the stretch. 

Dellin Betances has had some injuries and his health is an issue, but we have witnessed what he can do with his powerful fastball and strike out stuff when health is not a hindrance. Even if he's not living up to expectations, at 23, he's young enough to have a bright future. 

Offensively Jesus Montero is ready according to the Yankees and I think he will improve enough defensively to be better than average behind the plate. There are obvious questions about Montero defensively that have filtered down and some scouts who have watched him consistently at AAA, believe he can catch at the Major League level.  I think Montero will blossom being surrounded with great players on the Yankees.

Andrew Brackman has had the potential  to be a front line starter, but he has struggled as a starter at triple-A and has been moved to the bullpen.  He has had some velocity and control issues and hopefully with some time and patience, he can figures things out and reestablish himself.

According to Joe Girardi, Ivan (Super-Nova) has locked up a spot in the Yankees rotation and could end up making a run for American League rookie of the year. He has improve his record to 7-1 with a 3.09ERA in his last nine starts. Nova has the most wins by a rookie in 2011 and is the 10th Yankees rookie to record at least 11 wins in a season since 1950 and first since El-Duque (12-4, '98-Elias). Nova has shown a propensity to battle during a game when he doesn't have his best stuff and is considered by some to be the number 2 behind CC. 

It’s tough to bear in mind that most of these players in some form of combination would have been surrendered for Ubaldo Jimenez, who at 27 is experiencing a down year and has had a major shoulder injury in the minors. Ubaldo Jimenez has had only a brief history of dominance and there is more upside to these young players – not to mention the control the Yankees would have over several seasons.   

Jimenez had a solid year in 2009 (15-12, 3.47ERA) and displayed dominant stuff in 2010 going 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and pitched north of 200 innings in both years. In 2010, he threw a no-hitter and was the NL starter in the All-Star game and finished third in the NL Cy Young award balloting. No doubt during this period he demonstrated greatness and according to MLB scouts, his stuff really projected. 

The skinny on Ubaldo:

Ubaldo's strong arm enables him to reach mid to high 90's with his fastball.  His four-seamer simply overwhelms hitters with its velocity, while his two-seamer explodes down and in on right-handed batters.
This pitch enables him to induce far more groundball outs than most hard throwers and accounts for the difficulty sluggers experience when swinging for the fences.

For an off-speed pitch, Ubaldo uses a late-breaking slider. It often tops out at mid to high 80's.  Many of his strikeouts come on this pitch, which bores in on lefties and paints the corner against righties. He also employs a sinker and change-up, both of which he throws in a couple of different ways.  Ubaldo occasionally throws a classic 12 to 6 curve, but given the breadth of his repertoire and his past control problems, it is unsual to see this pitch more than a few times a game. 

But this season, he has struggled. Jimenez's fastball velocity is down as well as his other pitches and the Yankees were really concern with good cause as we have been burned by pitchers in years past. Since the All-Star in 2010 and prior to the trade to the Cleveland Indians, he was 10-16 with an ERA of 4.19.
His velocity is down, his movement is also down. Teams are picking up his pitches faster as well.

According to baseball Analytics, his fastball and slider appear to be the culprits. Here's how those two pitches have fared this year compared to 2099 and 2010 (before being traded):

Both the fastball and slider are getting hit harder this year, especially the slider and both pitches are garnering fewer misses and ground balls. 

It's apparent today that pitchers throw harder and with more movement on the ball, which will likely render a greater level of stress on the arm and shoulder.  And with Ubaldo's violent delivery and prior shoulder injury, we could be looking at an injury down the road. He did achieve some brief greatness, but not worthy enough to trade the kids. 

I commend the Yankees for having faith in a strong and developing farm system. Some might even consider the non-activity risky and sometimes it pays to take on the risk, but I would rather spread the risk among 3 or 4 young, talented and rising players.  The days of trading three or four top prospects for another team's pitcher may be over and as a die-hard fan, it gives me great pleasure to see the Yankees' organization hold these kids in high regard. 

Elias Sports Bureau

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Geo Ginrosge
Email: Ginrosge@yahoo.com